Third-year economics students from China tapped into their English-language skills at a student conference late last month to shine a light on some of the most pressing sustainability issues facing the world.
The students from Dalhousie's joint program with Shandong University of Finance and Economics and Renmin University in China put their English research, writing and presentation skills to work at the event, offering their perspectives on everything from climate change and drought to poverty and consumption through the lens of the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The conference, now in its eighth year, serves as a showcase of final projects for students in the Academic Writing and Research Skills course offered through the College of Continuing Education’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
Student Zhilin Cui delivered a presentation on reducing food waste to keep up with world population growth, a topic that fits in to the UN’s SDG of responsible consumption and production.
With the world’s population projected to hit 9.8 billion by 2050 and the decline of food production due to land degradation and other issues, her presentation highlighted the growing risk of mass starvation and the urgent need to reduce food waste in the supply chain.
She highlighted issues that arise throughout the chain, such as supply surplus at the post-harvest stage, poor packaging and tracking through intermediaries during distribution, and too much of a focus on food appearance at retailers. She also highlighted the need for more food recycling for those items that do get rejected.
“Further research can focus on how the national backgrounds and cultural environments can affect the efficiency of the food supply chain,” she said during her presentation, one of the two delivered during the conference’s opening ceremonies. “And we can work on how to reduce food waste at the consumption stage.”
Cui was one of nearly 30 students to deliver presentations at the conference, which was cosponsored by the College of Continuing Education (CCE) and the Department of Economics.
Connecting the dots
Professor Talan Iscan, chair of the Department of Economics, encouraged students in his remarks at the conference opening to see their research as a way to understand the link between global challenges around sustainability and economics.
“I think your research does and should connect those dots and tell us that economics is part of a very big picture,” he said. “We should be ready to make a change. The change starts with small steps. You have already taken a small step. Don’t stop there.”
He also noted how impressed he is year after year with the presentations.
“I work with many of the students who have gone through this program in the past, and I’ve always been amazed with their ability to master the language,” he said. “Your perseverance and hard work is a testament to the fact that it can be done.”
Several others also provided remarks at the opening ceremonies, including Andrew Cochrane (Dean of CCE), Barry Lesser (Director of the China Program in the Department of Economics), Brandon Randall (Projects and Program coordinator at Dal’s International Centre), and Jennifer MacDonald (Head Teacher of ESL programs at Dal).
MacDonald acknowledged the students’ achievements in going to and succeeding at university in two countries, two academic cultures and two languages.
“As bilinguals (or maybe multilinguals in some cases), you have a very sought-after and valuable contribution to make to academia, to various communities, to the workforce and to society,” she said.
“As Chinese-English bilinguals, you can effectively communicate with around half of the 7 billion people in the world,” she said. “That’s quite an achievement.”
comments powered by Disqus